Bates Motel Season 5 Episode 10 – TV Review
I won’t hyperbolise and tell you that this is the most gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, ethereal, gift-from-the-Gods finale in history. Because it’s not.
But even when Vera Farmiga was literally inhaling the scenery, Bates Motel wasn’t about being the biggest.
No. Bates Motel dies as it lived. True. And confident. And honest.
It was worth the wait.
TL;DR Norman, unable to live in a world without Norma, forces Dylan to kill him in a quiet, tragic finale; Romero is killed by Norma’s hand; Emma and Dylan survive Bates Motel.
I never thought that would happen.
So the first thing the Bates Motel finale has to get out of the way is to tie up its loose plot end: Romero. My predictions of a snow-kissed final showdown in the woods partly come true as Romero marches Norman to Norma’s body. But in his grief and horror, he lets his guard down, and Norma turns the familiar “Romero shoots the villain the fuck to death” trope back on poor Alex. But with massive head trauma, and now having heard how he killed his mother (Romero makes that dying breath count), Apparition Norma leaves Norman, as she no longer has anything to protect him from. Norman then spends the remainder of the episode in a bizarre trance, as he ferries Norma’s body back to the house and motel, pretending he’s living their arrival in White Pine Bay from the premiere (he even checks in a guest to the motel. Dylan, thankfully, sends them on their way later). Meanwhile, Dylan doesn’t trust Greene in finding Norman and keeping him alive, so when Norman calls him to invite him to their first dinner at the house as a family, Dylan heads in alone. He professes his love to Emma in a brief phone call, seemingly aware that despite his protests of “Norman would never hurt me,” this could be it. Dylan finds Norman in his upsetting dream state, and the sight of Norma’s mummified body posed at the dinner table is too much, as Dylan makes a last, impassioned plea with Norman to accept reality and face the consequences. Norman, lost in a world without his mother, refuses, and purposely raises a knife to his big brother. The inevitable, of course, occurs, and Dylan is forced to shoot Norman (Remo pops in for a last second cameo to give him a gun. Cool), the final shot of the Bates family a disturbing tableau of bodies and anguish. But things do end up on a sunnier note, as we see Dylan and Emma made things work. And Norman gets his wish of being reunited with Norma in death.
I wouldn’t want to live without Vera Farmiga, either.
Sure, it’s not as skyscrapingly, balls-to-the-wall operatic as Hannibal’s final episode. But Bates Motel, the Season 4 and first half of Season 5 sag included, didn’t also have the infuriating inconsistency of Hannibal.
And, at the end of the day, is there any other way things could have gone?
This was the ending Bates Motel had earned. And I’m grateful for it.
Why I hate this episode:
The only proper problem I had with this episode is the portrayal of Norman’s insanity. It had been established that the rosy world Norman saw in his mind was because of Apparition Norma. But after she leaves him following Romero’s death, the rosiness is back and stronger than ever. Kind of like Romero’s memories of Norma last episode, it was a bit too cheesy.
Romero’s absurd decision to turn his back on Norman didn’t make sense. Come on, dude.
Oh, and the random motel guest gave us a nice little creepy moment, but it was a distraction.
But it’s not all bad:
Dylan, wearing in those hero pants, gives her some money and tells her GTFO when he sees her there, though. God, he’s virtuous.
The final run of the episode really does belong to Dylan. Like I said last week, who would have thought that Dylan would end up being the good guy?
He is not some Because The Plot Says So superhero, though. As Emma and Greene remind him, Norman is a psycho serial killer, and not deserving of his support. But Norman, to Dylan, is also his little brother. And with Norma dead and Caleb gone, and Emma’s love under question, his only family. Dylan has to try. Which is why he’s so sympathetic, and his actions ultimately so tragic.
With Norman fully committed to his psychosis, Dylan enters the truly iconic Bates house of horrors. Seeing Norman living a fantasy isn’t particularly new for Dylan, but it’s seeing Norma’s cold, dead body propped up at the dinner table that is too much for Dylan to bear. He stops stalling and make his plea to Norman to accept help, vomit, tears and all.
And therein Dylan picks up the best line (monologue?) of the episode: “I don’t know what I want for you! What I really want is something that can never happen, okay? I want you to be happy; I want you to be well. I want mum to be alive, again. I want both of you, I want you guys to meet my daughter. I want to have Christmases together, okay? I want all of these things to have never happened.” He cried. Norman cried. I cried.
This precipitates Norman’s last grasp at keeping his fantasy, with this very close second best line: “Well, if you believe hard enough then you can make it that way.” He really did never grow up.
The fatal showdown between the brothers eschews the grandiose boss battle in the snow I had envisioned in favour of a close-quarters stand-off in the kitchen, the centre of the Bates family’s universe. Without the fantasy, Norman chooses death alongside Norma, and Dylan is forced to kill his little brother.
But instead of lingering on the scuffle or the shot, Bates Motel places its focus on Norman’s dying hallucinations of being reunited with Norma. And on Dylan’s sobbing as his brother dies in his arms, his mother’s corpse just metres away. It’s grim. And beautiful.
My favourite part of Norman’s visions are that Norma has her Season 1 hair back. That was my jam.
Emma gets her epilogue alongside Dylan. In their earlier phone conversation, Emma refuses to confirm that she and Dylan are still together. But in the end, they kiss as they meet and they walk with their daughter in the sunshine. I’m glad.
Romero fails foolishly in his quest for vengeance, but I respect his emotions at seeing Norma’s frozen corpse buried in the snow. And Regina, his old colleague he kidnapped, ends up okay.
After the namedrop a couple of episodes ago, Remo gets the honour of showing up for the finale. He ended up getting a legitimate job in the marijuana industry. It was nice.
Oh, and the final shot of the series is of Norma and Norman’s grave. It’s partly a happy ending, as Norman ended up with Norma, after all. But it’s bittersweet, as Norma’s half of the headstone is overflowing with the lovely things Norman had to say about her. But Norman’s is completely empty, Dylan evidently unable to find the words.